New UK COVID-19 strain cause for concern

Experts say variety is ‘more sticky,’ highly contagious

California’s top officials are “watching closely” for signs of the new, more contagious United Kingdom COVID-19 strain that has prompted some countries to enact travel bans.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that California has not seen any signs of the new strain, but is watching it closely. He emphasized there was a need for concern but not alarm.

“No evidence of this strain yet into the state of California,” Newsom said. “We are not seeing that here.”

Newsom said he has had discussions including with airlines about enacting new required testing and quarantine protocols for any U.K. travelers, but had nothing to announce yet. He said the federal government should take action and noted how Canada enacted a travel ban.

Canada suspended flights from the UK for at least 72 hours on Sunday.

Newsom’s top health official Mark Ghaly said the new strain is “a little bit more sticky than the Covid virus that we’ve been seeing to date.”

“For Covid to enter a human cell it needs to bind to a receptor, a front door on a human cell, and the new mutated Covid virus seems to bind a little tighter, a little more easily and enter the cell of the human body easier,” Ghaly said, adding “that is why we are worried.”

He said there is no indication that the mutated strain is deadlier but only more contagious.

“We are watching closely for this specific mutation,” Ghaly said. “The last thing we want to do is let a new strain of Covid come and spread more rapidly or easily across the state.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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